Seven Things That Will Help Make Your Freshman Year a Success
Starting college in a new location surrounded by new people can be difficult. To help you navigate your
first few weeks on campus, here are seven tips for a successful college experience from a person who was in your shoes just last year.
Everybody is going to give you advice. Most of the time, it will be opposing advice. Do what makes you comfortable.
You’re starting college, and suddenly, everybody’s an expert. It doesn’t matter who the person giving the advice is, whether they went to college or when they did, or even if they grew up in the area. The advice is going to come. But it’s important to remember that what you ultimately decide to do is in your hands, and no
one else’s. So if any advice makes you uncomfortable, mentally note that and try something different. Take even these tips with a grain of salt.
Use your resources.
What you’ll hear the most about during Orientation week will be your resources. Carnegie Mellon offers a
lot of them, and during information sessions, you may be nodding your head, thinking how great it is that you have access to so many different people. But you may never use half of them. The simplest way to solve a difficult problem is to ask for help, and here at Carnegie Mellon, help is always nearby. So, if you aren’t sure what you want to major in, talk to your advisors. If you’re confused about a career path, talk to members of the Career and Professional Development Center. If you’re feeling down or homesick, make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). And if you feel that none of these can help, you can always — always — ask a fellow student to meet with you. Realize that there are plenty of resources and make use of them.
Meet your professors.
Introduce yourself to your professors after their first classes, and go to office hours. Unlike high school, classes at Carnegie Mellon might be large. It’s unlikely that professors grade tests, so they may never associate your name and face together. By introducing yourself, you make that connection easy for them. It will never hurt, so there is no need to be shy. You never know when you’re going to get a good opportunity. At the end of my first semester, I got an email from my professor asking if I would like to be a teaching assistant (TA) for a class. In the middle of my second semester, I got another email from a different professor asking me to do research with him. Both of these opportunities came about because my professors knew my name.
TAs are your friends.
Although meeting professors is important, you don’t want to forget about your TAs. Chances are, they are the ones grading your papers and will have more opportunities to get to know you on a personal level. At one point or another in your college career, you will have to ask a TA for help. It makes it a lot easier if the TA knows who you are and why you are struggling. Also, since many TAs are undergraduate and graduate students, they will be happy to share their experiences with you and help you succeed.
Try something new, but don’t overwhelm yourself.
College is great — there’s a club for everything and for everyone. When you first discover all the wonderful opportunities, you might, like I did, go crazy and sign up for over thirty clubs. Very soon, you will realize that you simply cannot do so many things and you will have to make some difficult decisions. Do not be afraid to
try new things, but remember, you don’t need to try everything at once. Clubs and organizations are a way to relax, and if they are causing you more stress than pleasure, maybe it’s time to rethink your interests.
You don’t have to be best friends with your roommate.
You’ve seen all the movies where roommates are the best of friends. Chances are, someone on your floor has
that relationship with their roommate. And you may be questioning why your roommate doesn’t seem to be “the one.” Don’t worry. As long as you are both respectful of each other, you will have an easy and pleasant experience living together. And you will make other friends. Just give it some time.
Take time to create a schedule.
Students at Carnegie Mellon are incredibly busy. Between your classes, extracurricular activities,
that new job you have, and your social life, it can be incredibly difficult to manage time, especially if you cruised through high school without really having to try. Make yourself a calendar and schedule everything you plan to do. Unfortunately, the people who struggle most with time management feel that they do not have time to make such a calendar. It seems counterintuitive to spend time trying to find a way to save time. But, I promise you, making this calendar will be incredibly helpful. So find thirty minutes a week, preferably at the beginning of the week, to schedule yourself and stick to your schedule.